A new trail is born


The first Hillbilly Trail Crew meet happened on Sunday 7th November with a very specific objective in mind: to get an old ‘secret’ piece of the XC route open and linking into the bottom of the Red Run. 22 people showed up at stupid o’clock on a positively autumnal morning with a combination of wild enthusiasm, hot coffee and hangovers, and got kitted up with shovels, mattocks, leaf-blowers and rakes.

Aston Hill trail maintenance


The ‘secret trail’ was originally started several years back as a way of getting from the Red Run over towards the finish of the Black Run, avoiding the more technical end of the Red downhill. Since then there’s been some occasional work, but nowhere near enough to open it up. However, there have been up-sides with it hosting at least one magazine photo shoot!

A lot of the fundamental work had already been done - cutting a bench into the hill and creating some swooping turns on the way back down - but there was still a lot of trail to dig and more to reinforce and repair. It should be pointed out, as it was during Ian Warby’s various trail master-classes of the day, that building solid, sustainable trail is a very different matter to cutting a few lines for you and your mates.

A sustainable trail needs to drain well, survive all weathers and take very regular abuse from riders of all levels, so needs to be built slowly, carefully and with a lot of thought. Building a trail properly on your own takes an awful lot of time; it took Ian nine months to build the XC climb at the back of the park. However, we had 48 motivated hands and boy, did they get used.

The entrance to this new trail (the Hillbilly Rollercoaster?) is shortly before the large bus-stop on the Red Run and climbs off to the right. Yes, that’s right - climbs! It then drops through several swooping, bermed corners before joining the Red again at the start of the boardwalk and dropping onto the access road. It’s a rollercoaster of a trail, guaranteed to bring grins to the faces of riders of all abilities.

Aston Hill trail maintenance


Three groups worked the day clearing, reinforcing and digging trail. The sheer enthusiasm and hard work of the group was overwhelming, and by 1pm it became clear that we would actually achieve something that had been considered only a slim possibility at 10am: today we would open a completed track.

By 1.30pm the crew were packing up and the tape at the trailhead was removed - it was done. Aston Hill had a new trail.

Aston Hill trail maintenance

Chairman Rich fired up the BBQ and prepared a meat-feast, Hillbillies sat down and ate in a haze of steaming tea and the younger riders downed chocolate cake before getting kitted up to head back onto the Hill. It was early afternoon and there was still quite a bit of daylight left - it seemed a shame to waste it. And who could blame them? There was a brand new trail to ride!

It goes without saying - a massive, massive thanks to all who showed up and dug, especially those from further afield (including the guys from Tidworth Freeride). It was a great morning - hope you all enjoyed it!

If you want to get involved in future digs then sign up to the digging list and keep an eye on www.rideastonhill.co.uk.

The next dig day is in December, exact date TBC - drop a line to gardeningwithoutthevegetables@rideastonhill.co.uk if you want to take part!

 | Tags: , maintenance, new trail

8 Responses to “A new trail is born”

  1. Russ says:

    Rode the new section today in very wet conditions.
    Can I suggest putting chicken wire over the boardwalk section, as it’s lethal in the wet. other than that nice job.

  2. Neil says:

    Cheers for the suggestion Russ.

    Chicken wire has been suggested before, but the problem is that it isn’t very durable (and pretty lethal once it starts to wear out).

    Unfortunately the IMBA link I wanted to refer to has now gone (but it is discussed a while back on MTBR) and chicken wire is also talked about on BikeRadar with regard to use at Fort Bill.

    We’re keen to get a grippier all-weather solution in place and it’s an issue that IMBA and the FC are constantly working on.

    If you have any further ideas, please keep ‘em coming!

  3. Keefy says:

    How about grip tape, like they use on skateboards? Used to come in 6 inch wide rolls when I was a nipper. Like sticky-backed sandpaper! You don’t want to fall off on it, but then the same goes for chicken wire - friend of mine face planted on the stuff on the boardwalk bit on the Whites Level downhill at Afan and hasn’t looked the same since!

  4. Michael Short says:

    Instead of using chicken wire (which is too thin), how about using a higher-grade wire such as square mesh wire. This is much thicker and should solve the problem without wearing out and causing more problems.
    Esher Shore did this for their north shore.

  5. Matt says:

    Chicken wire and grip tape? seriously? I think you need to learn a bit of trail building know how.

    First you do this:


    Then you do this:


    You don’t buy slippery wood square blocks of wood from a hardware store and make it worse by turning it into a giant cheese grater.

    Its great to see rich and the guys get this bit of trail finished, I had feared all the effort that has gone into it over the years would be wasted.

  6. Davi says:

    so your suggesting they go find a chainsaw, chop down a tree, and replace the wood they already have with different ‘grippier’ wood? sounds like a great way to waste half a day to me…

  7. paul says:

    chains saw or chisel some patterns into what is already there? chainsaw graffiti??

  8. Neil says:

    The wood used for the construction has been treated for longevity and to prevent rotting (as required by the FC) - it wasn’t cheap.

    Unfortunately I don’t think a chopped-up dead tree would last quite as long…! ;-)

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